Thursday, October 20, 2005

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> The great Helena blues festival

The King Biscuit Blues Festival is no more: A New York outfit claims it bought the name decades ago for a syndicated radio show, apparently under the impression King Biscuit is some kind of flower.

But they couldn’t kill Arkansas’ musical gift to the world. The festival came back with a roar last weekend — renamed the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival — despite the wind and cold. (If they can rename the 19-year-old festival, can’t they move it up just one week, when the weather’s usually still warm? Last year’s festival, alas, was a washout).

But when the weather is half-decent, the Helena festival can claim title as the most important blues festival in the world. This is a festival that showcases native sons like 88-year-old guitar genius Robert Junior Lockwood (who learned from Delta blues legend Robert Johnson); 80-year-old drum wizard Sam Carr (whose father Robert Nighthawk was one of the all-time great slide-guitar players); 60-year-old deep soul-blues singer Eb Davis (who, in our estimation, had the best voice at the festival), and the 40-something Lonnie Shields, who helped kick off the festival Thursday before last, alongside Big Jack Johnson, another blues great from Clarksdale, Miss., who, as far as we could tell, was never introduced to the audience.

Most of these musicians had played at the first King Biscuit Festival in 1986 and have returned often. Lockwood hasn’t missed a year, although this was Shields’ first appearance in five years.

Shields is a native of Helena and so is Carr, while Lockwood was born up the road in Turkey Scratch, and they have an unmistakable Arkansas sound that seldom gets recognition in most blues circles.

They’re gifted musicians whose records are a must for all blues fans. Lockwood’s “Steady Rollin’ Man” (Delmark) is a classic and builds the case for Lockwood as America’s greatest guitar player.

For many years, Carr and Jackson teamed up with the late Frank Frost (another Arkansas native), who performed as the Jelly Roll Kings on such great records as “Rockin’ the Juke Joint Down” (Earwig) and “Off Yonder Wall” (Fat Possum).

Shields, who often played with the Jelly Roll Kings and now lives in Philadelphia, is in fine form on two Rooster CDs, “Midnight Delight” and “Portrait.”

Last weekend’s big surprise was hearing Eb Davis, a native of Elaine, which is near Helena, who now lives in Berlin. He’s a great soul-blues singer who reminds you of Jimmy McCracklin of Pine Bluff and Jimmy Witherspoon of Gurdon (Clark County). Davis has a great stage presence and once filled in for the Drifters while they traveled in Europe, which is why he’s now settled in Germany.

He comes home every once in a while, and till he does, listen to his CDs. We’ve enjoyed his “Wanna Talk About You” (Furni-ture Records) with Eugene (Hideaway) Bridges and “Fool for the Ladies” with Big Jay McNelly (Wonder-land Records). Wonderful music. Davis is one of the best and must not be missed if he returns here again.

But the three-day blues bash featured several legends besides the above mentioned Arkansans: David Honeyboy Edwards, who is 90, started playing in Arkansas back in the 1930s and was with Robert Johnson when he was poisoned in 1938 near Greenwood, Miss., not far from where Edwards was born in 1915.

Last Saturday night, Edwards sang a soulful “West Helena Blues” after he received a lifetime achievement award from the blues festival. You can hear him play “West Helena Blues” on his “White Windows” Evidence CD and elsewhere. Also check out his Library of Congress recordings from 1942, as well as his Smithsonian recordings, “Delta Bluesman.”

We also enjoyed hearing the great Bobby Blue Bland and Henry Gray, who was Howlin’ Wolf’s pianist and who still plays great swamp blues.

The Delta harp player Big George Brock, who now lives in St. Louis, made several appearances in the area during the weekend, winning new fans wherever he went. Check out his “Club Caravan” CD from Cat Head. He’s a class act.
It is with sadness that we note that the great Sam Myers, once a powerful blues shouter, is battling throat cancer and can no longer sing, although he said a few words to his fans in a scratchy voice and briefly played his harmonica with Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets, his old band mates.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

EDITORIAL >> The case for Harriet Miers!

Indecision, indecision. Senator Blanche Lincoln says she is a little troubled by the nomination of President Bush’s attorney as a justice of the U. S. Supreme Court. She knows little about Harriet Miers’ qualifications for the court and is eager to learn more.
We would like to help but no one, least of all Miers, will ever be able to enlighten Sen. Lincoln on that point. Miers is a greater enigma than anyone nominated for the court in modern times, greater even than the unknown and lamentable G. Harrold Carswell, nominated by President Richard Nixon and rejected by the U. S. Senate.

Miers has never been a judge, which should not itself be a disqualification, but her record in the service of the law turns up little either. She rose to be managing partner of a big corporate law firm in Texas and served a term as president of the Texas Bar Association, both of which testify to her political skills but not her legal acumen. There is so far little in the way of even appellate briefs on constitutional cases that might reflect her powers of reasoning and argumentation.

There are samples of her composition when she was head of the Texas Bar Association but it is mostly mush — windy, vapid sentences that argue earnestly for the commonplace. The conservative columnist David Brooks, ordinarily a cheerleader for the White House, gave samples from the bar association writings and said none of them even rose to the level of pedestrian.

Of course, the president’s own files while he was governor of Texas furnish the most illuminating evidence so far of her wisdom, the mail that he received from her while he was governor and she was at the law firm and then his appointee to the Texas State Lottery Commission.
“Great speech! Many compliments in the audience!” she wrote. (Jan. 15, 1998)

“Hopefully, Jana and Barbara recognize that their parents are cool — as do the rest of us. . . All I hear is how great you and Laura are doing. The dinner here was great — especially the speech! Keep up all the great work. Texas is blessed!” (no date)
“You are the best!” (July 21, 1997)
“You are the best Governor ever — deserving of great respect!” (undated)
“You and Laura are the greatest!” (May 15, 1997)
“Thanks for taking the time to visit in the office and on the plane back. Cool! Keep up all the great work. The state is in great hands.” (March 30, 1995)
“Texas has a very popular Governor and First Lady!” (July 8, 1996)
Conservatives are wondering why the president chose her!
Miers told another White House aide that Bush was the most brilliant man she had ever known, and Bush maintains that she is the most eminently qualified person in America for this seat on the Supreme Court.

The conservatives are upset because they expected a conservative intellectual who would tilt the court dramatically to the right and overturn all the landmark constitutional rulings since Dwight Eisenhower was president — abortion, school integration, prayer and religious homilies in the classroom and defendant rights.

Robert Bork, who was rejected by the Senate and is the exemplar of the movement, condemned Miers’ nomination in the most denigrating terms heard in modern times. But we would put that in her column. Bork might have been the worst nominee for the court in our time. Bobby Bork was bright enough, but he considered the judicial system and the whole of the law mere intellectual playpens, not a place of final resort for people seeking justice. He never gave the slightest obeisance to people.

A local example: In the famous Grand Gulf electricity case, while he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia 20 years ago, Bork concocted a formula that would have forced the people of Arkansas to pay staggering electricity rates to support Middle South Utilities’ subsidiaries in Mississippi and Louisiana. Arkansas would have borne almost 100 percent of the costs of giant nuclear power plants in Mississippi and received none of their power. If he could have persuaded one more judge to join him, Arkansans would have spent the past 20 years in virtual peonage. Bork thought he had come up with a clever theory for power sharing.
We doubt Miers would be so callous as to do that to any people — unless George W. Bush proposed it!
Besides, President Bush can make a compelling affirmative-action case for Miers. Remember Roman Hruska, the Republican senator from Iowa, who once insisted that the Senate confirm G. Harrold Carswell even while acknowledging that Carswell was no intellectual powerhouse.

“Even if he is mediocre,” Hruska said, “there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance?”

Senator Lincoln has a chance to give them representation now if she can be sure Miers rises to that test —but not if President Bush withdraws her nomination! Bless them all!

TOP STORY >> Deputies could fall victim to cutbacks

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office has submitted $4.5 million in cuts to the county comptroller, which will go before the county quorum court on Tuesday.

The county has about a $7 million deficit and Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines ordered every department to take a hard look at their budgets and report back Tuesday.

“The sheriff’s department and detention center are about 70 percent of our budget,” said Justice of the Peace Bob Johnson of Jacksonville. “They will have to take the brunt of the cuts.”

Those cuts tentatively include closing 325 beds at the detention center, releasing 55 civilian and jail staff and three medical staff members at the jail.

The department’s plan also includes cutting 27 patrol deputies and all school-resource officers.
“A lot of the specifics of the budget cuts are still in flux,” said Sgt. John Rehrauer, spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “Every department has been touched.

“It’s all very difficult, but we’ve received a mandate. Our job now is to continue to do the best we can. To get and keep as many deputies out on the street as possible.”

Losing the school-resource officers, even though it just five individuals, hurts. Rehrauer said the department gets a lot of positive publicity and makes good contact with kids through the program and “We had just revamped it and added some components teaching the kids to make better choices,” he said.

Losing school resource officers could affect Northwood Middle School and Cato Elementary locally.
“Without a doubt,” Johnson said, “we will have less county employees at the beginning of next year than we have now. We don’t know exactly who’ll they’ll be yet.”

Johnson said there would be a lot of discussions before the final decision, but beds will be closing at the county detention facility by the end of the month.

If 325 beds are closed, that’ll bring down the capacity from 1125 to 800 according to Rehrauer.
Unless the community gets behind a countywide, quarter-cent sales tax dedicated to expanding the jail, the detention center will continue to wither on the vine, Villines has said.

He said that when the jail closes at least one wing at the end of the month, it would put at least 160 non-violent felons back on the streets.
The county unsuccessfully tried to pass a quarter-cent sales tax in 2000 for the jail during a general election.
“I wouldn’t go before the public again without an indication of public and private support from the community. This is a quality-of –life issue. The first thing people want is to be secure,” Villines said.

He added that rather than closing about 300 beds, the detention center needs to add 200 beds now and another 300 soon, and it needs to support programs aimed at keeping people out of jail.
“There’s no relief in sight,” he said.

“We’ve got to balance the budget. We’ve expended all reserves and carryover, reduced spending and tightened up. We’ve hit the brick wall.”

TOP STORY >> Middle School Woes

Leader staff writer

Adding their voices to the chorus of Jacksonville residents unhappy with what they say is the Pulaski County Special School District’s lack of commitment to the new Jacksonville Middle School boys campus, members of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s education committee on Wednes-day had strong words and pointed questions for interim Superintendent Robert Clowers and Marvin V. Jeter III, director of learning services.

The boys campus is experiencing fights and discipline problems and less than nine weeks into the school year, 60 students already had been suspended.

Under pressure from some parents and the Rev. James Bolden III, Jacksonville’s school board representative, the board Tuesday declined an administration recommendation, acting instead to leave a well-respected, strong disciplinarian — Jackie Calhoun — as an assistant principal at the school instead of moving him to Jacksonville High School. The administration had proposed the move to cut costs as proposed in the district’s Fiscal Distress Improvement Plan.

Calhoun, helping supervise students getting on buses at the close of school Thursday, said he was happy to remain at the middle school.
That leaves one principal, 1 1/2 assistant principals and one school resource officer to oversee a school where there were 16 students in the office for disciplinary reasons Thursday afternoon.


“We want special treatment and plans,” Bolden said at Wednesday’s chamber meeting. “This is not just another school.”
Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim agreed, saying he expected the board to do what was necessary to make the single-gender schools successful.

“This school is a disgrace to the community,” Swaim said. “It creates a problem in recruiting businesses and new residents.”
“Discipline (problems) at the boys school shot up,” Bolden said.. “We need full support on the gender schools. We don’t have time for friction”
“We pulled a high percentage of low achievers,” boys campus Principal Michael Nellums said.

Seventy-two percent of the students in his school get free or reduced lunches, an indication that they are economically disadvantaged and statistically more prone to discipline problems as well as academic problems, Nell-ums said.
The middle school argument has undertones of the discontent that led Jacksonville leaders to try unsuccessfully to detach last year from PCSSD and form their own school district, and the ongoing discontent over their failure to have their own district.
A circuit judge ruled last year that a separate school district would violate the district’s desegregation agreement.


“Jacksonville is not happy,” said Bolden, who is a leader of the separate school district movement. “Things begin with discipline. We’re not getting what we were told. You told us there would be money (for facilities, programs, tutors and making a successful transition to the separate gender school model.)”
Swaim said the district app-roached the city with the single-gender middle-school idea last year, saying there would be re-sources through grants.

“I want enough to make it operate,” Swaim said after the meeting. “If they want to let it fail, they’re certainly going about it the right way.”
“We keep hearing ‘grant, grant, grant … no grant, no grant, no grant,’” Bolden said.
Some people believe there is a power struggle between Nellums and Jeter.
Jeter blames Nellums for problems in implementing the single-gender curriculum and would like to see him fired or transferred to another school, according to sour-ces who asked not to be identified.
“I would hope that he doesn’t feel that way,” Nellums said Thursday. “I haven’t specifically heard that. I’d be disappointed if that were the case.”


“Nellums is one of the strong-est, ablest administrators we have,” Jeter said Friday. “This really is not a vendetta. I appreciate his skills. I believe in him and his abilities and I’m sorry some people made that an issue. I believe we work very well together.”
He added that a new program sometimes works better with new leadership and that moving Nellums to another school would have been an option.

Nellums said the discipline problems are to be expected when you put a large number of low-achieving males, with the natural aggressiveness of males, into a new environment, and that the district should recognize that and make sure there is sufficient supervision.
We don’t have the resources or opportunity to teach them conflict resolution, Nellums said, or time for intramural sports after lunch to take the edge off their aggression.

Jeter acknowledged that there were problems.
“I think there have been miscommunications and regular growing pains,” he said. “It’s a challenge to start a new program.”


Jeter said after-school remediation would soon begin and he expected Title V money to buy mobile laptop-computer carts so students could work on weak academic areas.
One sore point with Nellums and some Jacksonville parents and business people is the question of the gender school’s site-based council.
State law gives schools the authority to form site-based councils with teachers, administrators, principals and other school em-ployees making many major decisions at the local level.
Currently the middle school girls campus has one, left over from the council at that building last year when it was a traditional coeducational middle school. There was no such council last year at Jacksonville Junior High, where Nellums was principal, and which is the boys campus this year.
Jeter told the chamber members that the existing council had reserved spaces for representatives of the boys campus.
Nellums and Bolden say that the existing council should be dissolved and a new vote taken of interested parties at both schools. If the school community approves a new council, it would include members from both boys’ and girls’ campuses. Nellums has re-fused invitations to participate on that site-based council.
“I don’t think we should be one school, but two,” Nellums said.
Swaim agreed saying it should be two separate schools with two separate campuses and potentially two separate site-based councils.


“I’ve heard a lot of excuses, but I haven’t heard any solutions,” Swaim said.
Jacksonville Chamber of Com-merce Director Bonita Rownd told administrators that parents had complained that some students at the girls campus didn’t have text books and that teachers had told students — again, largely economically disadvantaged — to “go online.”
Jeter said more books were being purchased, although cuts in new textbooks were part of the district’s fiscal-distress improvement plan.
“This school can be successful with proper resources,” said PCSSD assistant superintendent Karl Brown. “We know what we’ve done wrong.”
Brown noted that the students were 55 percent African American, of whom only 17 percent were proficient in reading and math.
Nellums and two mothers who addressed the Tuesday school board meeting noted that the low-income students at the boys school generate about $150,000 in additional federal revenues, money they would like to see used to hire math and literacy coaches for the school.


Hydrant testing may discolor water supply

The Jacksonville Fire Department will begin testing the city’s fire hydrants on Monday. This testing is necessary to maintain and improve current Insurance Service Organization ratings, which determines insurance rates for business and homeowners.
This testing could cause the unsettling of sediment that does collect in the water mains. This sediment will cause discoloration of the water and can stain clothing in the wash. However, unsightly the water may be, it is bacteriologically safe to drink. Citizens are urged to check for discolored water before doing laundry to avoid staining clothing during the testing period. The testing is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 28.

Winter coat donations will be collected Saturday

Donations of winter coats will be received at Wal-Mart by the Salvation Army on Saturday, Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Volunteers will be available in the parking lot to receive all donations. These coats will be available for needy families during the time of Christmas assistance sign-ups in early November.

Parks and recreations sets craft sale for Nov. 19

Jacksonville Parks and Recreation will hold its annual holiday craft sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at Jacksonville Comm-unity Center, No. 5 Municipal Drive. Vendors from all over will be on hand. Crafts include quilts, woodwork, needlework, candles, ceramics, jewelry, American Native crafts, basket weaving, rug hooking, carving and much more. There is a $1 admission fee at the door for adults only. For more information call 982-4171.



Dee Leslie Mathis, died Oct. 17. He is survived by his loving wife of 27 years, Deborah Durham Mathis; five sons, Nolan, Leslie, Steven, Shane and Matthew; three daughters, Stacy, Deanna and Sunny Scott; one brother, Glenn Mathis Jr., four sisters, Opal Jones of Lonoke, Deanee, Kec and wife Lynn of Horseshoe Lake, Shirley Pope Joy and husband, Leon of Mablevale, Glynda Parks and husband Ken of Conway and special long life partner, friend, brother and more. Doug Gordon; 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at Boyd Funeral Home, Lonoke. Graveside services will be in Concord Cemetery at 10 a.m. on Thursday.


Scott Alexander Ceurvels of Sherwood passed away Oct. 16. He was preceded in death by his father, John Edward Ceurvels. He is survived by his wife, Lori Lynn Ceurvels of Sherwood, mother, Charlene “Ceurvels” Livezey of Jacksonville; and sister, Johnette Ceurvels of Jacksonville. Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Wednesday at Bethel Baptist Church in Jacksonville with Bro. John Lindsey officiating. Interment will follow at Rest Hills Memorial Park. Arrangements by Roller-Owens Funeral Home.


Dominic Peter Cedio, 70, died Oct. 17. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn Cedio; one daughter, Debbie Cooley of Jacksonville; a son, Larry Cedio of South Carolina; one step-daughter, Barbara Ingle of Hazen; three grandchildren; brothers: Tony, Jimmy, Joseph, Roserareo and Anthony; sisters, Kathleen, Francis, Virginia, Ann, Josephine and Eva. Graveside services will be 2 p.m. Wednesday at Hicks Cemetery, with arrangements by Boyd Funeral Home, Lonoke.


Vergie Mae Rucks, 78, of Jack-sonville died Oct. 15 at Rebsamen Medical Center in Jacksonville. She was born May 15, 1927, in El Dorado to the late Robert and Willie Mae Cooper Rucks. She was also preceded in death by her husband, Curtis Stanley in 1955; brothers, J.B. Rucks, Au-drey Rucks, Howard Rucks, B.H. Rucks, Odell Rucks.

Rucks was employed 15 years for Dr. Grady Hill in El Dorado. She was a member of Shady Grove Baptist Church in El Dorado.

She is survived by her four children, Robert Stanley of Hephzibah, Ga., Lois Lewis of Jacksonville, Alvin Rucks of Montgomery, Ala., and Faye Cunningham of El Dorado, brother, Leo Rucks of El Dorado, 17 grandchildren, and 41 great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Thursday at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with Mike Roark officiating. Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Almarine G. Batts of Jackson-ville, born April 27, 1936, passed away on Oct. 15 after a courageous battle with cancer. She was a devoted member of the Little Rock Air Force Base Chapel, Protestant Women of the Chapel, NCO Wives Club and volunteered for many years in the Pulaski County Special School District. She was preceded in death by both parents, one brother, dau-ghter, Tracy Lynn Coverly and husband, Horace Samual Batts.
Her sweetness will be remembered by her family and loved ones.

She is survived by three daughters, Rhonda Denise Kimble, L’Yana Capri Batts, Rachel Denise Futterer (Jason), two grandchildren;,Robert Wayne Gray, Jr. and Carmen Capri Kimble, two great-grandchildren, Aaron Samuel Futterer and Alayna Marie Futterer, one brother, Joseph Franklin Harris, Jr., two sisters, Joanna Bluford and Gloria “Peaches” Oates, 11 nieces, nine nephews, eight great-nieces, 15 great-nephews and “son” Don Landers.

The funeral will be held at the Little Rock Air Force Base Chapel on Friday at 11 a.m. Please allow time for security clearance. Visitation will be held at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home, 1504 J.P. Wright Loop Road on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.


William Eugene Carmical, 70, of Cabot, died Oct. 18.

He was born on Dec. 9, 1934, to William and Mabel Counts Carmical in North Little Rock. Eugene was a 33° Mason, a Shriner, an avid golfer, a member of Rolling Hills Country Club, United States Navy Reserve for eight years, retired owner of Gene’s T.V. in Lonoke, a 50-year member at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cabot. Carmical was a dedicated grandfather and he also enjoyed hunting. Carmical was preceded in death by his parents, his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Roy Counts.
He is survived by his wife, Nell Duke Carmical; his children, Donny and wife, Laura Beth Carmical of Cabot and Christy and husband, Marty Cavin of Austin; grandchildren, Kortney and Drew Coates, Kaycee Carmical and Morgan Cavin.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday at 920 W. Hwy. 89. Funeral services are 10 a.m., Thursday at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cabot with Bro. Terry Fortner officiating. Burial will be at Sumner Cemetery.


James Franklin Uzzell, 65, of Valdosta, Ga., died Oct. 15 at South Georgia Medical Center. He was born Nov. 11, 1939, in Hazen to the late James and Viola Uzzell. He was an accountant by trade most of his life and traveled the world in that capacity. He was most recently a computer programmer and part-time night auditor.
Survivors include two daughters, Sonya D. Uzzell of Nashville, Ga., and Cherlynn K. Boyer of Safety Harbor, Fla.; one granddaughter, Savannah M. Boyer of Safety Harbor, Fla., and two brothers, Ernest E. Uzzell of Lonoke and David H. Uzzell of Cabot.

Visitation will be 10 a.m. to noon Thursday at Boyd Funeral Home, Lonoke. Graveside services will follow at 2 p.m. in Lonoke Cemetery.


Robert Litton, 72, formerly of Conway, died Oct. 16 at his residence in Valdosta, Ga., following a lengthy illness.

He was born on March 31, 1933, in Lonoke to the late A.G. and Susie Litton. He graduated from Lonoke High School and attended the University of Central Arkansas. He was retired from General Electric and was a member of the Church of Christ. He was preceded in death by his wife, Colleen Litton, a brother, W.C. Litton and a sister, Betty Durst. He is survived by two sons, Ed Litton of The Colony, Texas, Guy Litton and wife, Arsenia of Aubrey, Texas and one daughter, Suzanne Barnett and husband Hollis of Valdosta, Georgia; three granddaughters, Connie Barnett, Katie Barnett, Valentina Litton and numerous nieces and nephews.
Graveside services will be held in Lonoke Cemetery at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Arrangements by Boyd Funeral Home, Lonoke.

Memorials may be made to the Cancer Society, Hospice of South Georgia or the Multiple Sclerosis Society.


Thurston Louis La Ferney, of McRae, born Aug. 10, 1923, died on Oct. 14.

Born in Des Arc, he lived much of his life as a dairy farmer and rural mail carrier in McRae.

He was a veteran of the China-Burma-India Theatre in World War II, a chaplin of the Rural Carriers State Association and a member of McRae United Methodist Church, where he was a lay speaker. He was a lifelong hunter and fisherman and taught himself to play golf at the age of seventy-nine.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Louis and Viola La Ferney. He is survived by his beloved wife of sixty years, Nelda Jean; his daughter, Gwen Fullen and husband David of Arkadelphia; son, Marty La Ferney and wife, Nancy of West Memphis; grandchildren Mark Wade Fullen of Oceanside, Calif., John David Fullen and wife, Allison of Little Rock, Stacy Lynn Dougherty and husband, Robert of West Memphis, and Dustin Louis La Ferney and wife, Mrinda of Palestine, Texas; and two great-grandchildren.

As the oldest of seven children, he will be deeply missed by his brothers, Charles La Ferney of Searcy, Claude La Ferney and wife Mary Lou, also of Searcy, Gerald La Ferney and wife, LaVeta of Austin, and his sisters Juanita Olmstead of Beebe, Freda Miller of McRae and Cleo Milton and husband, Charles of Searcy. Services were held Tuesday, at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens.


Elmo Arthur “Bo” Cummings, 92, of Floyd, left this world on Oct. 14. He was born near El Paso, on September 12, 1913. Mr. Cum-mings was proud to be a veteran. He served in the Army in World War II and earned a Purple Heart. He loved coon hunting, fishing and baseball. He was an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan.

Suffering great pain from cancer, he was anxiously awaiting to be reunited with his twin brother, Elmer, his mother, Maud West Stoops, his baby girl, Connie and numerous other family members and friends. He leaves behind his beloved wife of over 65 years, Alma Cummings; two sons, Jimmy Cummings and wife, Mary of Pine Bluff, Joe Cummings and wife, Cindy of Romance; and one daughter, Linda Winfrey and husband, Lyndel of Floyd. He is also survived by five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The family wishes to express their appreciation for all the loving support and encouragement given to them and their loved one. They especially want to thank Hospice for sending them an angel in the form of “Nurse Jim.”

He wished to be cremated with no public service or fuss. His family is respecting this wish.

Arrangements were made by Westbrook Funeral Home of Beebe.


Beulah A. Montgomery, 81, of Jacksonville, passed away Oct. 16.

She was born to Calvin and Nancy “Hamilton” Arnold in Norfolk.
She was preceded in death by her husband James of 59 years.

Montgomery is survived by her children, Glenn A. Montgomery and his wife, Janis; Janis Thomp-son and husband, James; and Beth Simons; sisters Ethel Lucas, Bernice Van Matre and Ione Partney; grandchildren Blake Montgomery and wife, Shannon; Melissa Jacob and husband, Kevin and Jeffery Hughes; great grandchildren Miles Montgomery, Anna Claire Jacob and Katherine Jacob.

She is also survived by a host of nieces and nephews. The family would like to thank the staff at Woodland Hills in Jacksonville for their loving care. Memorial services were held Tuesday at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home.

Memorials may be made to the American Diabetes Assoc., 212 Natural Resource Drive, Little Rock, Ark., 72205.


Robert Oscar Phillips, 62, of Jacksonville, passed away Oct. 15 in North Little Rock.

He was born in Stamps on Nov. 9, 1942, to Paul and Irene “Warner” Phillips. In the 1960’s through the 1980’s he built houses for Thurman Lewis in Jacksonville and Bradley T. James. In 1980, he started his own business building houses in Jacksonville.

He was very active in Native American affairs and was past president of the Indian Inter-Tribal Association of Arkansas.

He is survived by his loving wife, Madelynn; three children, William and wife Jynnifer Leggett, and Angella and Bobby Phillips; brother, Larry and wife, Silvia Phillips of Cabot; sisters, Alice and husband Charles Shinn of Glenwood, Peggy and husband, Donald L’Amay of Jonesville, La., and Wanda and husband Rodney Peterson of Magnolia; 10 grandchildren, one great-grandchild and 10 nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were held Tues-day at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel followed by interment in Shiloh Cemetery in Stamps. Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers the family requests memorials be made to Robert Phillips, C/O John Loyd, J.P.L. Corporation, P.O. Box 342, Jacksonville, Ark., 72078.


Roy Lee Jones, 87, of Jacksonville, passed away Oct. 17. Jones was retired from AM&F Cycle Company. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather who will be deeply missed.

His wife of 66 years, Lois E. Melton, survives him.

He is also survived by two sisters, Mary Green of Bryant and Bernice Peters of Texas; one daughter, Shirley Ruth Peter of Little Rock; two grandchildren, Dr. Mark Corbell and Dr. Nathan Corbell and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be held Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home in North Little Rock. Funeral services will be held Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Bayou Meto Baptist Church, 26200 Hwy. 107 in Jacksonville.

NEIGHBORS >> National Guard unit visits Cabot Central Elementary, spreads anti-drug message

Leader staff writer

The Arkansas National Guard on Friday visited students at Cabot Central Elementary School and talked about the fight the war on drugs in the state.

Guardsmen from the Counter Drug Unit from Camp Robinson arrived in a Light armored vehicle (LAV) and an UH-1 helicopter.
“That’s the most awesome sight to see the helicopter landing and taking off at our campus,” said Stacy Sales, a first-grade teacher at Central Elementary.

“Our neighbors around the school came out to watch too.”
After arriving, the Guardsmen told students about patrolling Arkansas with local sheriff departments to help root out drugs.
Sales says it is never too early to teach children how to say no to drugs.

“We discussed what drugs are, and why students shouldn’t take prescription medicine that isn’t prescribed for them,” she said.
Afterwards, students got to explore the interior of the LAV and helicopter.

The visit was part of Red Ribbon Week, which officially starts Oct. 24. As part of Red Ribbon Week, public schools across the country coordinate daily activities to remind children to keep healthy and away from drugs.

Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 when Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was kidnapped and murdered in Mexico while investigating marijuana and cocaine traffickers.

In Camarena’s hometown of Calexico, Calif., high school friend Henry Lozano and Cong. Duncan Hunter-R launched “Camarena Clubs” where hundreds of club members wore red ribbons and pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor the sacrifices made by Kiki Camarena and others on behalf of all Americans.

Red Ribbon Week eventually gained momentum throughout California.
In 1985, club members presented the “Camarena Club Proclamation” to then First Lady Nancy Reagan, bringing it national attention.
Later that summer, parent groups in California, Illinois and Virginia began promoting the wearing of Red Ribbons nationwide during late October.

The campaign was then formalized in 1988 with then President Ronald Regan and First Lady Nancy Regan serving as honorary chairpersons.

Today the week-long event is sponsored by the National Family Partnership, previously known as the Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth.

It has become the annual catalyst to show intolerance for drugs in schools, work places and communities.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville to host East conference tournament

Leader staff writer

The AAAAA-East volleyball conference tournament finally comes to Jacksonville this Saturday afternoon. The event was supposed to be at JHS last year, but flood damage to the gym due to a leaky roof forced it to Jonesboro.
Now, the Lady Devils have a new floor and probably the best chance to win the tournament they’ve ever had.
The field of five teams is wide open this year. For most of the past 15 years, Jonesboro has been the easy favorite to win the East’s top seed for the state tournament, and have done so.

This year, the Lady Hurricane finished 2-2 in league play and got the No. 2 seed behind 4-0 Moun-tain Home.
Jonesboro, 2-2, opens the tournament against Cabot, who finished 1-3 and got the five seed, at noon Saturday.
Jacksonville will play Sylvan Hills, 1-3, at 2 p.m. while Mountain Home just sits and waits for the final round.
Jacksonville coach Phil Bradley believes there are some advantages to playing the tournament at home, but also says it comes with extra distractions.

“It’s good to play it at home, I just wish there weren’t so many other things going on at the same time,” Bradley said. “There’s a big football game and a dance that weekend, and the ACT is being given here at our school. I know some teams had some players miss the tournament last year to take that test, and that’s likely to happen this year.”

The advantage, Bradley hopes, will come from the crowd. The head Devil believes the crowd helped his team in home matches against Sylvan Hills and Cabot, and hurt it at Mountain Home.

“We had just won game two and tied it up there (Mountain Home) when football practice let out and their classmates showed up,” Bradley said. “They really got behind those girls and I think it lifted them up, and maybe got to us a little bit. I think we had that same advantage against Sylvan Hills and Cabot. I know it’s a Saturday afternoon, but I hope we have some people show up to yell for our girls. I hope there’s a lot of students there.”

Cabot and Sylvan Hills have the opportunity to bring a crowd as well, and the opening-round matches should be exciting. Jonesboro beat Cabot three games to two in the conference matchup earlier this season. It was one of the most exciting matches of the year in the East.
Jacksonville beat Sylvan Hills 3-0 in the conference matchup at Jacksonville, and 3-1 in a non-conference match at Sylvan Hills.
That would tend to make one comfortable with the matchup, but not Bradley.

“It’s tough to beat a team three times in one year,” Bradley said. “Sylvan Hills has some kids capable of coming up big, and we can’t afford to go into that thing thinking we’ve got it won. There’s going to be one pretty good team not make it (to state).”

SPORTS >> Ex-teammates now rivals

Leader sports writer

The talk surrounding this week’s matchup between Jackson-ville and Forrest City has revolved mostly around the side story of the two head coaches involved in the matchup. Jacksonville’s Mark Whatley and Forrest City’s Scott Reed were teammates on the last Red Devil state championship team in 1981, and have remained friends over the years.

While the fans may be talking about it, the coaches themselves are downplaying the story line, and rightfully so. This game not only has playoff implications, but potential conference championship implications as well.
Whatley barely spoke of the side story.

“We’re not playing,” Whatley said. “We’ve both got a bunch of kids working their tails off playing this game. We’ve stayed in touch. He’s a great guy, a great coach who’s had a lot of success and he’s doing an outstanding job turning that program around. I have all the respect in the world for him. Other than that, it’s his team I’m concerned with this week.”

His counterpart, a good friend and former teammate, also downplayed the significance of the coaching story, but did talk about the friendship, and what it will be like coming back to Jan Crow Stadium for the first time in many years.

“Mark and I played on the same baseball team together in the 6th grade, and played together from then on up,” Reed said. “We’ve played a lot of games together and he was a heckuva teammate. I’m very happy for him and it looks like he’s got ‘em rolling. They’re a lot better now than they were at the beginning of the season. This is a big, big game for both teams, any way you slice it. I’ve played in some big games at that stadium, and it’s going to be very odd for me standing on that other sideline.

“But as far as that being important to this game, I don’t really think so. Mark and I have had our time. This is for our kids that have worked so hard to make this game so important.”

Whatley and Reed were somewhat less than satisfied with their teams’ performances last week.
Jacksonville beat Searcy 31-20, but it wasn’t as complete a performance as Whatley wanted to see after showing steady improvement in every game over the previous three weeks.

Jacksonville missed a couple of opportunities to score that likely would have sealed the game much earlier than it did. They also missed an assignment or two on defense that allowed the Lions to score.

“Defensively it was just a couple of busted assignments, mistakes we hadn’t been making lately,” Whatley said. “We can fix that. Rick (defensive coordinator Rick Russell) has done an outstanding job with the defense this year and I’m sure we’ll get those mistakes corrected.”
The offense doesn’t need a lot of correcting, according to the head coach. It just needs to be more opportunistic.

“We just need to be a little more potent running the offense,” Whatley said. “There were a couple different times when we had everything in place to score and just didn’t for different reasons. We could make it easier on ourselves if we would be more potent and score on those plays when it’s there.”

Reed wanted to see his team finish better than it did in a 23-21 win over Sylvan Hills.
The Mustangs were up 23-7 with less than a minute remaining, but the Bears scored twice in the final minute, but failed to convert a two-point try that would have sent the game into overtime.

“We’re going to have to do a lot of things better to even compete this week,” Reed aid. “Most teams have guys, where you bust an assignment, they’re going to get 10 or 12 yards on you. Jacksonville has a couple of guys that will hang six on you no matter where they are on the field. We’re going to have to play our responsibilities, and play smart.”
Reed said the offense had the same task.

“They’ve got guys on defense that just seem to have a nose for the football,” Reed said. “We’re going to have to be safe with it, and accurate.”
Forrest City throws the ball around a lot, but it’s also got a big bruising running back named Ben Wright that has wreaked havoc on opposing defenses lined up to stop the passing game.

“Oh he’s a load,” Whatley said. “He’s a rumbler and a stumbler and we’re going to have to gang- tackle him. We’ve got to make sure we bring him down because you can’t just run up and knock him down. People bounce off him that do that.”
Reed says Wright’s and the running game’s role will likely be determined at game time.

“I just don’t know,” Reed said. “We’ve had games where I thought we’d have to pass for 200 yards to win, and the running game did well. Then we’ve had games where I thought we’d have to be able to run, and the passing game hurt ‘em a lot.”
When asked what he thinks will work against Jacksonville, Reed responded, “We’re still looking. I just don’t know yet.”

EDITORIAL >> Prosecutor can make ’em talk

WASHINGTON — Re-porter: Could you loosen the electrodes, please?

Special Prosecutor: No. Just answer the questions.

Reporter: But I don’t know anything! That’s why I’m a reporter!

Special Prosecutor: Do you know Karl Rove?

Reporter: Not really. YEOWWW!

Special Prosecutor: That was a three. The generator goes up to 10. Do you want me to turn it higher?

Reporter: No, no! I’ll talk!

Special Pro-secutor: I’ll show you a picture. Is that you in the picture?

Reporter: Yes. It must have been taken at the last White House Christmas party. That’s the only time I wear my blue suit.

Special Prosecutor: And who is that man 10 feet behind you, eating baby lamb chops?

Reporter: I ... I’m not sure. YEOWWW!!

Special Prosecutor: That was a four. Now, I ask you again, who is the man behind you eating baby lamp chops?

Reporter: It’s Rove! Karl Rove!

Special Prosecutor: So you do know him.

Reporter: I know him. Everybody knows him. But he doesn’t return my phone calls.

Special Prosecutor: Does he use a mail drop? Or a podcast? Does he ever IM you? Does he use the screen name UnindictedBoyGenius?

Reporter: No, I swear.

Special Prosecutor: Do you know Valerie Flame, a.k.a Victoria Wilson, a.k.a Wood-row Wilson, a.k.a. Queen Victoria?

Reporter: Those people don’t exist. YEOOWWW! I mean they are the names that Judy Miller, The New York Times reporter, wrote in her notebook! But when she wrote Valerie Flame, she really meant Valerie Plame. And when she wrote Victoria Wilson, she really meant Valerie Wilson.

Special Prosecutor: Yes, it was a code. A clever code that took my team of code-breakers 22 months and $17 million to break. I show you a second picture. Do you recognize the man standing next to Karl Rove at the White House Christmas party?

Reporter: The man cutting up his baby lamb chops for him? That’s Scooter Libby.

Special Prosecutor: Our code-breakers, supplemented by a special team from Halli-burton, have cracked that code, too. “Scooter” Libby is really Lewis Libby.

Reporter: Everybody knows that. YEOWWW! I mean, good work.

Special Prosecutor: On June 23, 2003, Judy Miller met with Lewis, a.k.a. Scooter, a.k.a. Skateboard, a.k.a Rollerblade Libby in the Old Executive Office Building. At that meeting, Libby might have told her that the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV might work at the CIA. Miller wrote, “Wife works at bureau?” in her notebook. Do you deny that?

Reporter: No, except that the CIA is an agency, not a bureau.

Special Prosecutor: Why do reporters get things so wrong in their notes?

Reporter: It makes it easier to make things up later.

Special Prosecutor: Who is “Miss Run Amok”?

Reporter: That is what Judy Miller calls herself.

Special Prosecutor: Did you know that Miss Run Amok spelled backward is “Koma Nur Sim?”

Reporter: What does that mean?

Special Prosecutor: We think it’s more code. Bob Novak spelled backward is Kav On Bob. There’s a pattern there. Given several more years and a billion more dollars, we might be able to crack it.

Reporter: Why are you keeping me here?

Special Prosecutor: We want to know who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a.k.a. Victoria Wilson, a.k.a Victoria’s Secret to Bob Novak.
Reporter: Why don’t you just ask Bob Novak?

Special Prosecutor: That would be too easy. OK, you can go now.

Reporter: How long have I been here?

Special Prosecutor: Two months.

Reporter: Hey, how about keeping me another 30 days? I need it for my book deal. YEOWWW!

EDITORIAL >> District to city: drop dead

The Pulaski County Special School District, which has been adrift for years, both academically and financially, is about to slap Jacksonville residents in the face once again: The district, which, according to the state, is in “fiscal distress” — basically bankrupt — hopes to improve its financial standing by closing two of the elementary schools that have seen enrollment drop.

Nine elementary schools have fewer than 300 students, including four in Jacksonville: Arnold Drive, Homer Adkins, Tolleson and Warren Dupree. Most likely to close are Harris Elementary, a magnet school in the McAlmont community, and Scott Elementary. They serve even smaller student populations than the Jacksonville schools.

There are people around here who say the district is punishing Jacksonville for its unsuccessful effort last year to form its own school district.
Problems at the single-gender Jacksonville middle schools will be discussed when the Jacksonville City Council convenes Thursday. On Tuesday, speaking to one of our reporters, Mayor Tommy Swaim lashed out at the district for failing to serve the city’s schools.
While neighboring districts, particularly Cabot, continue to see growing enrollment (due, no doubt, to white flight, but not entirely) and the construction of new schools and state-of-the-art athletic facilities, the Pulaski County District is looking at the possibility of a state takeover, which may not be all that bad in view of the district’s dismal performance thus far.

If PCSSD thinks it can regain solvency by eliminating schools in north Pulaski County, then area residents might well renew their efforts to secede. If parents can show that their children’s constitutional rights have been violated because of the inadequate education they receive, then a second attempt at independence might be in order.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Nothing new on ivory-bill

The long-running CBS news program “60 Minutes” did a feature Sunday on the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods near Brinkley, adding nothing new to the subject, although viewers in this part of the country probably suspected that Ed Bradley, one of the show’s long-time correspondents, didn’t quite know where he was or whether he spent much time here.

The segment included shots of a birding festival in Clarendon, but the elusive woodpecker, long thought to have been extinct, was actually spotted in the Bayou De-View in the Dagmar Wildlife Management Area less than five miles from Brinkley — near I-40, one of the nation’s busiest interstates, which cuts through the wildlife area and which would have made an interesting shot for the segment.

Bradley, who was shown in the bayou where Gene Sparling had reported seeing the bird almost two years ago, probably spent a few hours in the state doing a couple of interviews and read his narration in a studio in New York while his producer and cameraman did most of the work, such as it was.

“60 Minutes” is famous for its stunning camera work, and there were a few good shots from Bayou DeView, although I didn’t hear the bayou’s name mentioned, and the pictures were no different from what we’ve seen on television since last spring, when it was first announced that the ivory-billed woodpecker had been spotted in the bayou several times and videotaped once.

Bradley and his crew missed an opportunity to report on the next phase of the ivory-bill saga: Scientists, mostly from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, who have studied the bird for more than 60 years, will resume their search for the bird this fall, from Cotton Plant in the north down to (yes) Clarendon in the south.

Scientists think as many as a dozen ivory-billed woodpeckers, if they exist at all, are hiding deep in the woods between those two spots, most of them in the Cache River Wildlife Refuge at Claren-don, which is far larger than the Dagmar Wildlife Management Area where Sparling had first seen the bird.

The program missed another crucial angle: The Grand Prairie Irrigation Project on the White River at DeValls Bluff, which environmentalists oppose, as it will drain 158 billion gallons of water every year and threatens the wetlands that have helped preserve the ivory-billed woodpecker.

Construction of the pumping station is well underway and only a court ruling would stop the Corps of Engineers from completing the project.
Perhaps “60 Minutes” will re-turn next winter and do a followup, especially if more sightings are reported. But if the “60 Minutes” team does return, it will be old news, which helps explain why the TV news magazines aren’t as popular as they used to be.

Audiences have deserted these shows after years of inaccurate reporting — from young George Bush’s phony National Guard records on “60 Minutes II” (now cancelled) to fake consumer tests on “Dateline.”

In addition, TV news magazines face more competition from cable and other media. Maybe another reason fewer people are watching is that they’ve figured out correspondents do very little re-porting. So-called producers do most of the leg work before high-priced stars like Mike Wallace and Ed Bradley drop in, read a script and interview their subjects in extreme closeup as they fidget, or better yet, lose their composure.

There were two weepers on “60 Minutes” last Sunday: A segment on a former football player with drug problems who sobbed like a kid, and the head of the Cornell Lab who held back tears as he described his joy over the ivory-billed woodpecker’s rediscovery.
You’d cry too if you spotted the ivory-billed woodpecker in east Arkansas.
You’re less than an hour away from the Big Woods. Start looking.

TOP STORY >> Private property handcuffs street plans

Leader staff writer

Discussions about the ownership of streets consumed about half of the more than two-hour city council meeting Monday night in Cabot, where traffic is commonly congested and traveling across town has become a major issue.

Opening Elm Street to keep traffic off Hwy. 89 has been a goal of Alderman David Polantz, and part of the $1.8 million in the bond issue voters approved last month is supposed to pay for it.

But opening the street could prove difficult, because where the street was plotted to go and where the city wants to put it are not the same.
As Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh explained, it is not possible to pave the gap that exists in the street without creating a “dog leg” that would be dangerous to motorists.

To make it run straight would require using property that Larry Nipper bought as an investment in 1974. Nipper is agreeable to selling the property, but he expects the price he could get on the open market for a commercial lot on a newly opened street.
The mayor told him the council would probably pay $25,000, a little more than its value as the residential lot it is.
“Over a year ago, I had a real estate agent approach me about selling for the Bank of the Ozarks,” Nipper told the council. “She offered $135,000. That sounded high to me, but not nearly as high as $25,000 sounds low.”

The amount the city is willing to pay is the same that he paid for it 31 years ago, he said.
Nipper said that since the city is determined to own his property, he should be allowed to rezone it to commercial. He pointed out that it is surrounded by businesses and therefore it should be zoned commercial. Furthermore, the city had caught him off guard with talk about taking it.

“If you’re trying to appraise it as R-1, you’re trying to take advantage of me,” Nipper said.
Jason Carter, the former Cabot city attorney who has filled in since Ken Williams resigned last month, suggested that an arbitrator should be called to settle the matter. He said after the meeting that it is clear neither side wants to take advantage of the other.
If arbitration fails, the city would simply take the property and a jury would decide how much it is worth, he told the council.
The council also dealt with improvements to Meirs Lane, a private drive that leads to Pleas-ant Forrest subdivision.
The planning commission wants the developers to use Meirs Lane as a secondary entrance to the subdivision. The street is considered private because there is no record that it was ever deeded to the city. However, the city has paved the street and therefore has a right to claim it, Carter said.

But the subdivision developers maintain that it doesn’t actually join their property so they have no authority to compel the owners to allow them to do anything to it.

The matter was sent back to the planning commission for discussion on an alternative to Meirs Lane.
In other business, the council voted 5-2 with one abstention “to prohibit the spending of city funds on advertising for an elected official without council approval.”

The ordinance was a direct result of the city paying $2,300 for an ad in Arkansas Business congratulating the mayor for being named to that publications’ “40 under 40” list of young Arkansans who are successful in their fields.

It was introduced two months ago by Alder-man Polantz, who made the motion Monday night to adopt it. Alder-man Eddie Cook seconded the motion.

Alderman Patrick Hutton spoke out against it, saying the city had enough laws on the books and that one was not necessary.
Voting for the ordinance were aldermen Polantz, Cook, James Glenn, Odis Waymack and Tom Armstrong. Voting against were Hutton and Jerry Steph-ens. Bob Duke abstained from voting.

The vote to approve spending $222,148 for a special census was unanimous.
The Cabot City Council is considering a special census that would cost $222,148, but could gain and additional $305,000, a year in tax revenue or $1.3 million between the time the census is completed and the next regular census is completed in 2011.
The city will borrow the money to pay for the census, since there is none in the city budget for it. Stumbaugh said he believed the money could be repaid in two years.

The mayor and council got information about the advantages of a special census that was provided by Metroplan, which uses building permits to estimate cities’ growth.

Metroplan estimates Cabot’s population at 19,967, which is 30.8 percent larger than it was when the 2000 census gave the city an official population of 15,261.

In making the estimates about the revenue gain, Metroplan assumed that the census would be completed early in 2006. The additional tax revenue from the state would be $64.92 per person.

The council also listened to a presentation by Sherman Banks about Sister Cities International, a program started by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 who hoped it would prevent future wars. Today the program also promotes commerce and an exchange of ideas.
The council agreed to talk about joining the organization.

TOP STORY >> Cutting jobs critical to balancing budget

Leader staff writer

The question of a new quarter-cent, dedicated county sales tax to run the jail was the 800-pound gorilla studiously ignored by County Judge Floyd “Buddy” Villines and members of the Pulaski County Budget Com-mittee during a meeting Tues-day morning.

For now, the county, obligated by law to submit a balanced budget, is faced with the pros-pect of cutting 122 county jobs to trim $7 million from the budget. The county’s financial woes are largely attributable to the county’s ever-increasing share of the cost of running a 1,125-bed detention facility filled mostly with prisoners from Little Rock and North Little Rock.

While 2006 general-fund requests, based on the 2005 budget, totaled $62 million, the county ultimately has only $40.1 million available for appropriation, according to Villines, compared to $46.3 million last year.
That means elected officials must cut nearly $7 million.

It can reduce the budget by about $6 million by cutting the 122 positions from a total of 786 positions.
Most of the rest will come from substituting compensatory time for overtime and from cutting most part-time and extra help.
Of those, Villines proposes to cut 28 people from his staff, while Sheriff Randy Johnson must cut 91 positions, many of them jailers and deputies.

The county will begin shutting down a 165-bed pod of the jail starting the last day of October, according to John Rehraurer, spokesman for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, and cut it by 20 beds per week until the inmate population is reduced from 1,125 to 800.
“It’s becoming a harder and harder jail,” he said, with the non-violent offenders being released.

About a dozen deputies gathered around County Clerk Pat O’Brien and County Attorney Karla Burnett to ask why a new tax couldn’t be enacted by voters.

O’Brien said it would take only about 45 days to get a proposal on the ballot, but a new tax could not be enacted in time to affect the county’s 2006 budget crisis, according to Burnett. There is also a 30-day waiting period to allow appeals after such a vote.
“We have to have a balanced budget by Dec. 31,” Burnett said.

While the county must pay $19 million out of a $40 million budget to run the jail, Little Rock is not happy about paying its $2 million share out of a $130 million budget, said quorum court member Pat-ricia Dicker.
In 1997, the county’s share was only about $4 million.

Because the county jail sops up about one-half of all available revenues, the county has had to divert money from capital improvements — fixing roofs, for instance.

Villines said people used the word “crisis” too freely, “but folks, this is a crisis,” he said.
“We’ve never experienced anything like this.”

Three members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving held posters in the front row of the meeting, expressing opposition to plans to reduce the number of available beds in the lock up from 1,125 to 800 in order to reduce costs — mostly personnel costs.
Villines identified four reasons for the financial difficulty:

• Growth in the number of jail beds and associated costs including prisoner medical costs
• An ever-decreasing amount of revenue from the countywide sales tax attributable to the growth of cities at the expense of the county
• Expansion of the number of stores in adjacent counties — meaning they don’t have to come to Pulaski County to shop
• An increase in employee benefits.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD is to blame for woes, city says

Leader staff writer

A growing number of people in the Jacksonville community think the Pulaski County Special School District is inflicting punishment in return for the town’s attempt to start its own school district.

“That’s absolutely, 100 percent totally false,” school board member Jeff Shaneyfelt said Tuesday. “They’ll throw gas on a fire to make it burn. I have no problem with Jacksonville. I think it ought to get what everyone else gets.

“The district budget is $5 to $6 million up-side down. Where do you get the money? We tried the cut payroll. The state board said no. We cut everybody out we can cut.”

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim is among those who think his community isn’t being treated fairly by the school district, especially the way the district is handling problems at the Jacksonville Middle School’s boys campus.

“I believe it’s set up for failure so they can say Jacksonville didn’t do it,” the mayor said Tuesday. “Parents are trying to work within the system and teachers are working hard. The district is just not coming close to what they promised.”

Rising to his feet, district board member Rev. James Bolden of Jacksonville, loudly denounced school officials Monday evening for reneging, he said, on a freshly minted promise to leave two assistant principals at the troubled boys campus.

“I know you have a problem with (boys school Principal Mic-hael) Nellums, and I know you have a problem with me,” Bolden told Marvin V. Jeter III, assistant superintendent for learning services, in a stentorian voice he usually reserves for chasing evil from the sanctuary of his Jacksonville church.

“You went and talked against me. I’m sorry, but I know doggone well what I’m dealing with,” Bolden charged as board members and administrators sat silently at a meeting called to address the district’s Fiscal Dis-tress Improvement Plan.
“We had a meeting (last week). You said we could have two (assistant principals), but you pulled one out and sent (her) to (Jacksonville High School.)”

The board last week declined to approve an administration recommendation to transfer Jackie Calhoun, Nellums’ lone full-time assistant principal at the troubled boys campus, to the high school.

But by Monday, administrators had instead moved a part-time assistant principal, Colleen John-son, to the high school.
Acting Superintendent Robert Clowers on Monday night declined to confirm that a principal had been moved, saying instead that his staff would reconsider the matter Tuesday. Clowers didn’t return a telephone call about that issue Tuesday.
Asked Tuesday how many assistants he now had at the boys campus, Nellums said, “I have one. They took Ms. Johnson away, sent her to the high school.”

Problems with implementation of the single-gender school at the boys campus have stirred up the Jacksonville community and spilled over into a meeting last week with the chamber of commerce education committee. The topic will be on the agenda when the Jacksonville City Council meets at 7 p.m. Thursday at city hall.

At that chamber meeting with some district officials on Oct. 12, area businessmen told Clowers and Jeter that they needed to provide whatever help the boys campus needed to succeed in the new, single-gender environment.

Jacksonville officials and Nellums want more disciplinary help — like assistant principals at the boys campus, where more than 60 boys have been suspended since the beginning of the school year, and fights at the school are common.
Some parents had asked the board to leave Calhoun at the school, and the board did.

Shaneyfelt said discipline is a district-wide problem. He said about a dozen parents of high-school students in his district were considering transferring to other districts to escape the unruly environment.
“We all need help with discipline,” Shaneyfelt said.

The district is implementing a ratio of one assistant principal for each 375 students at a school, a higher-staffing level than the state minimum of 1 per 500 students.

Bolden said he wanted the boys and girls campuses to be redesignated as two separate schools, each with its own principal and assistant principals — a position backed by Swaim at the chamber meeting.

“Everybody knows we’ve been trying to get our own school district and the judge says we can’t do that,” Swaim said.
“So we’ve been trying to help the district every way we can. The middle school is an experimental process and the city of Jacksonville and its constituents were willing to do that. Now I’m disappointed. (The school) is not provided re-sources, or a proper administrative staff.
“I have gotten positive calls from the girls school and boys school that think it can work, but not unless the school district provides the proper resources.”

TOP STORY >> Beebe enjoys steady growth

Leader staff writer

It’s not a boom yet, but Beebe is growing at a faster rate than it has in the past and new businesses are opening to provide services that will be needed to support a larger population.

Allen Ridings, Beebe’s code enforcement officer, said this week that he has sold almost as many building permits in the first nine months of 2005 as he sold all of last year.

“It’s really getting ready to bust out,” he said.
Perhaps the most obvious commercial addition is the new Sonic on Dewitt Henry Drive which opened Sunday. The old Sonic was razed two months ago to make room for the new one, which boasts the longest canopy in Arkansas, just a few feet short of the length of a football field.
Beebe Alderman Bobby Robinson, who owns the restaurant, said he has hired about 40 young people to staff the business and he intends to put them on roller skates to make their car-side deliveries.

With a canopy that is almost 100 yards long, skates will make for faster service, but also, “It’s just more fun,” he said.
Around the corner from the new Sonic on Hwy. 64, Community Bank will soon have a second full-service branch with a canopy covering four drive-through stations.

Tracy French, CEO of Comm-unity Bank in Cabot, said his customer base had already outgrown the current branch on Dewitt Henry Drive and he believes Beebe will continue to grow, especially along Hwy. 64.

A new interchange opened last month in Beebe that makes for easier access to ASU-Beebe. When it did, a new Conoco station was already there, ready to cash in on the change of traffic flow.

Now, a new Simmons Bank is planned for a lot across the street from the new gas station. Also planned for the same area is a 66-unit apartment complex.

A new car wash is going in on Dewitt Henry Drive near the existing Community Bank and farther down the street toward McRae, plans are set for 24 apartments.

Two small subdivisions are also in the works, one with 29 lots off East Mississippi and one with seven between Hwy. 31 and 1st Street.
Much of the growth in the Beebe area is outside the city limits. Growth inside the city is limited by the lack of available land, and an attempt to grow by annexation failed this summer.

Economic Director Marjorie Armstrong said it is unclear at this time if the city will attempt annexation again in the near future. It’s up to the council to decide if and when they will try again.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” she said.

TOP STORY>> Schools to close?

Leader staff writers

Jacksonville leaders and residents rallied Tuesday morning in support of Homer Adkins, Arnold Drive, Warren Dupree, Harris and Tolleson elementary schools, which were identified among candidates for closure at a Pulaski County Special School District workshop Mon-day as the district refined its fiscal distress improvement plan.

The district has been designated by the State Department of Education as being in fiscal distress, and if it can’t recover by the end of this school year, it could be taken over by the state. That happened recently to the Helena-West Helena district. An appropriate improvement plan is considered the first step to recovery.

The district, poised to save just over $5 million in the 2005-2006 school year, proposes to save approximately $600,000 of that by closing two small elementary schools, according to acting Superintendent Robert Clowers.

The Monday workshop was intended to help the district fix shortcomings identified by the State Department of Education by including more details and setting timelines for various actions.

The administration and board have considered a wide range of cost-saving measures, some of which — like freezing teacher salaries — have been rejected by the state, resulting in a lawsuit.

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim, who spent most of Tuesday morning talking with concerned residents, said, “I understand the school district’s problem with finances, but I think they need to learn to manage their assets and be concerned with educating the children, which is what their main function is.”

“Closing any schools is certainly going to impact the neighborhoods that have to displace students,” Swaim said.
The State Department of Education wants to know which schools will be closed and the steps and timetable for closing them.
Of the district’s 24 elementary schools, nine have fewer than 300 students enrolled, including the five area schools, as well as College Station, Landmark, Oak Grove and Scott elementaries.

The district tried last year to close Scott, which has the lowest enrollment at 101 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, or 138 including pre-kindergarten students.

“Closing a school is a last resort,” said school board member Jeff Shaneyfelt. “But the state board is encouraging us at looking at that.”
Shaneyfelt said size wouldn’t be the only factor in deciding which schools to close.

“We need to look at transportation costs, impact on the community … a lot of things need to be looked at,” he said.
At least one inside observer considers Scott Elementary School a likely candidate for closure.
Swaim said he called the district to express his own concerns, and talked to principals to assure them that the city would do everything it could to make sure their schools aren’t closed.

The district will hold public meetings in November, prior to its decision to approve specific schools for reconfiguration and/or closure, probably at its regular December board meeting. That would allow time to notify parents or reassignment in January, open pre-registration in February and notify staff of assignments in April, before the May 1 deadline to notify teachers of non-renewal of contracts.
“I still feel very strongly that a separate school district would be to our advantage, however I acknowledge we’ve been told we can’t have that, so we’re trying to work with the system … and nothing has been successful,” Swaim said.

“Cities need to have neighborhood schools and neighborhood schools need districts to be supportive,” said Bonita Rownd, director of the Jacksonville Chamber of Com-merce. “Our city has taken continual hits with the district having to have the desegregation program, where many of our students are pooled and recruited to schools in other cities. Our shrinking enrollment is evidence that the population here doesn’t have a firm belief in what this district is doing.”

“The PCSSD is a concern for us,” Swaim said. “We’re part of that district. We wish it would be successful and I’m disappointed it isn’t. There is a lot of room for improvement and there is definitely a lack of understanding of the problems we have in Jacksonville.”
Swaim said if Jacksonville had its own school district, residents would be much more receptive to passing milages and have better parental support.

The largest of the other proposed savings are: Paying off early retirement incentive, $1 million; cutting text-book purchases, $500,000; providing its own substitute teachers, $500,000; cutting the number of assistant principals by 11, $587,668; and cutting Transportation Department cuts, $248,000.

Big tentative cuts pending legal action are eliminating paid holidays for support staff and certified ad-ministrators, $931,035, and freezing support staff salaries, $452,118.